Achebe and Conrad

Modernist: Joseph Conrad

Post Modernist:  Chinua Achebe a Nigerian writer.

Chinua Achebe author of “Things Fall Apart”, wrote an essay on Conrad’s text “Heart of Darkness”  critising Conrad’s presentation of colonial Africa and declaring him “A bloody racist”.  The essay entitled “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness”, explores both the narrator of the book as well as Conrads own perception of race and Africa.  Achebe’s essay has been a topic of great disscusion and caused great debate being the first to heavily critise Conrad arguing that “Heart of Darkness “eliminates the African as a human factor”.  Many critics have disagreed with Achebe and have said he fails to distinguish between Conrad himself and the narrator.  Other things must be also taken in to account in terms of the time period it was written in and the mindset of society, of which Conrad questions.

The bellow is quoted from An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness”:

Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world,” the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant beastiality. The book opens on the River Thames, tranquil, resting, peacefully “at the decline of day after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks.” But the actual story will take place on the River Congo, the very antithesis of the Thames. The River Congo is quite decidedly not a River Emeritus. It has rendered no service and enjoys no old-age pension. We are told that “Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world.”

To counteract the early depiction of Africa as primitive, Achebe has writtern of the strong culture and ordered lifestyles of the indigenious Africans the Igbo people of West Africa, particularly in “Things Fall Apart”.  Whereas Conrad’s colonial novel, shows Africa from the perspective of a european, exploring the European mind within Africa.


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